Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was installed yesterday as the Episcopal Church’s first female chief pastor, a job that will include shepherding a denomination on the verge of a historic split over homosexual clergy, same-sex blessings and biblical authority.

The new presiding bishop’s sermon before more than 3,000 people at the Washington National Cathedral focused on themes of homecoming and world peace. She invited listeners “into that ministry of global peace-making that makes a place and affirms a welcome for all of God’s creatures.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori made one allusion to the potential split facing the church. About one-tenth of the 2.4-million-member denomination has been threatening to leave since the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an active homosexual.

“If some in this church feel wounded by recent decisions, then our salvation, our health as a body, is at some hazard, and it becomes the duty of all of us to seek healing and wholeness,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said.

She also called on her listeners to find “the will to make peace with one who disdains our theological position — for his has merit, too, as the fruit of faithfulness.”

Women have been priests in the Episcopal Church only since 1974 and bishops only since 1988.

The two-hour investiture service yesterday made Bishop Jefferts Schori the highest-ranking woman in the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is one part.

The service opened with chants by Paiute, Shoshone, Ute, Sioux and Chippewa drummers. They led a lengthy procession of about 180 bishops and priests into the cathedral at 11 a.m., carrying vessels that burned an incense “prayer offering” of sweetgrass, sage and cedar.

Liturgical dancers followed, waving green, red, gold and purple banners and streamers as they escorted a stream of interfaith visitors representing Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim traditions.

The service reached its emotional high point just after Bishop Jefferts Schori, dressed in a multicolored alb and mitre, made the ceremonial three knocks at the cathedral’s doors. She was greeted there by a group of bishops and laity, including retiring Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who escorted her to cathedral’s main crossing as many of the congregants applauded.

She then was presented with symbols of her office, including a book of the Gospels, water symbolizing baptism, bread and wine and oil. When Bishop Griswold presented her with an ornate silver primatial staff at 11:25 a.m., thereby transferring the power of his office over to her, the congregation erupted in cheers.

“Katharine Jefferts Schori is a marvelous successor,” he said after the service. “I look forward to her leadership.”

Newark, N.J., Assistant Bishop Carol Gallagher, hobbled by a sprained ankle, said she made a special effort to attend the ceremony for the first female presiding bishop.

“I could not miss this,” she said. “I just had to be here today. It has meant the world to all of us.”

None of the bishops at the gathering appeared to include those from seven Episcopal dioceses that have refused to accept Bishop Jefferts Schori’s leadership as presiding bishop and have appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for an alternate. The archbishop has said the matter will be addressed at a meeting of the world’s Anglican archbishops in Tanzania in February.

Before her investiture, Bishop Jefferts Schori extended an invitation to four Anglican bishops — who opposed her June 18 election as presiding bishop — asking them to meet with her when they visit the United States in mid-November. There is no sign the Anglican prelates, who are meeting with conservatives from the seven dioceses in Northern Virginia, responded.

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